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James Merritt - Love and Marriage

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    James Merritt - Love and Marriage
TOPICS: Family Ties, Family, Marriage, Love

The next five weeks, we're gonna be talking about the family and today I wanna put a list of animals, some animals, most of which you've never heard of on the screen. And I want you to see if you can guess what they have in common, all right? First of all, there's the Florida Panther and then there's the Lesser Prairie Chicken. I don't know what the more prairie chicken looks like, but this is the lesser. Devil's Hole Pup Fish, Bryde's Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale, Monarch Butterfly, and Delta Smelt, probably bad. What do you think those have in common? Those are some of the most endangered species in America today. They're about to go out of existence, but animals are not the only thing in this world that can be threatened with extinction. We've got institutions that can be endangered species to do.

Let me tell you two that are about to go the way of extinction extinction, extinction. Two that are about to go out, two that may disappear maybe in your lifetime. One is marriage, traditional marriage, and the other is the traditional family. Believe it or not, you may think I'm over-hyping this. They're at risk of going away of the Dodo Bird. My one of my favorite authors is a public theologian. His name is Os Guinness, and this is not easy to read. It's not easy to stomach, but it's just absolutely true. Listen to what he said. He said "The overall crisis of the family needs no exposition. From permissiveness of the hookup culture, to the pill that separates sexual pleasure and procreation, to no-fault divorce, to abortion on demand, to alternative forms of marriage, to assisted suicide, to the collapse of the family dining table and to all the sex education materials for students in public schools, all these recent trends have joined forces to undermine the Jewish and Christian view of the family as the bedrock, nurturing and transmitting institution of civilization".

I wish I could tell you that's over-hype. I wish I could tell you that's being overly dramatic. I wish I could tell you no, that really isn't true. But as far as marriage, it is becoming increasingly invisible. I'm gonna shock you with some of the things I'm going to tell you. Seventy years ago, a large majority of U.S. households, about 80% were comprised of married couples. So in other words, 70 years ago, eight outta 10 homes you walked into had a married couple living in it. Today for the first time in the history of the United States, that is now a minority. Only 49% of homes are populated with married couples. If you're between the age of 18 and 34, married, marriage is fallen from approximately 60% of you being married in 1978 to only 30% of you in 2018. The share of Americans getting married has fallen to, has fall to its lowest level on record.

In 2018, the U.S. marriage rate fell 6% with only 6.5 marriages formed for every 1,000 people. Now that may not seem like a big do to you, that may not really shock you. Let me just put it to you this way. That is the lowest since the data started being recorded in 1867. Marriage is going the way of extinction. Well, what's been the result of all of this? Well in an article in "The Atlantic," this was the conclusion, "If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We made life freer for individuals, but more unstable for families. We made life better for adults, but worse for children. We moved from big, interconnected and extended families, which help protect the most vulnerable people in society, to smaller detached nuclear families. This shift has ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working class and the poor".

Now, David Brooks was not talking about what I'm talking about, the traditional family, moms, dads, and kids, but he should have been. So maybe you'll understand why we are beginning a series today that we're calling Family Ties, Family Ties. What brings a family together because I am convinced, I may be a, you know, outta date, outta touch, I am convinced that not just from a biblical perspective, let's put the Bible aside just for a second. From a social, cultural perspective, the family is still a vital institution. Marriage is where the family begins. It is still God's best plan for the beginning of the family and the continuation of the family. So we're gonna do like a building block series. Every message is gonna build on the other one. So I'm really gonna encourage you for the next five weeks, don't miss any of these messages. We're gonna talk about love and marriage. Then we're gonna talk about the husband. Then we're gonna talk about the wife. Then we're gonna talk about the mom. And then we're gonna talk about the dad and hey, you parents that fifth week, get your kids here. We're gonna talk to the kids. They may need it worse than you do. We're gonna be talking today, talking this week about Family Ties.

Now let me just say something right at the very beginning and get this elephant out of the room. The reason why a lot of people fear marriage is 'cause they see, they see so many marriages crash and burn and they say, why even put myself through that because here's the truth of the matter, marriage is tough. Marriage is hard work. See here's the way it goes. Dating reveals the best of you. Marriage brings out the worst of you. You marry Dr. Jekyll, you wake up with Mr. Hyde. It's just kind of the way it works. You know, Teresa and I, we just celebrated as you know, our 46th wedding anniversary, and I don't mind telling you we've had our obstacles. We've had our difficulties. We've had our rough patches. We've had our hard times. I remember not, you know, we haven't been married too very long and I mean, we've kind of got into it about something. I remember what it was. Teresa was so upset. She looked at me and she said, you know what? If you really loved me, you'd have married somebody else.

Now we we've all had those tough times. So today what I wanna do is this, let's take a walk backwards. Let's go all the way back to the beginning of time, to the beginning of everything. So it's the easy thing to do. We're gonna be today in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter two, you don't go two chapters into the first book of the Bible 'til you come to the first marriage in history. So you're reading along and you read how God created the earth and the planets and the stars and the moons. And then you get to the first half, the last half of the first chapter. And then you get to the second chapter and all of a sudden it hits you square in the face. The first institution that God created was not the church. It was not the state. It was not the school. The first institution God created was the family, marriage.

So that tells me something. I get it. I know how you're working. God intended marriage to be the foundation of the family and the family to be the foundation of the nation. And I confidently will tell you, as marriage goes, so goes the family. As the family goes, so goes the nation. So what we're going to do today is go all the way back to Genesis, because as you're gonna see in a moment, marriage is not our idea, it was God's idea. We're gonna go all the way back. And what we're gonna find is this is God's plan. This is what God wanted for every single marriage. We're gonna take a look at the very first wedding that resulted in the very first marriage in history. Here's why. The first marriage was intended to be a model marriage. It was intended to be the blueprint. It was intended to be the kind of marriage you would want to copy when you get married. Marriage is God's ideal idea, 'cause I want you to remember something. Adam did not think up marriage. God did. Creating a mate for Adam was not Adam's idea. That was God's idea.

So I want you to understand something a bad marriage is not because God had a bad idea. Marriage is his ideal idea. You say, well then pastor, if that's true, why the divorce rates are so high, even among Christians and why does so many people even call it quits before they get around very long? And why are more people, and more people say, we just won't even fool with it? Here's the problem. We get married and then we turn an ideal into an ordeal and we start looking for a new deal. That's exactly what happens. So not that it was a bad idea at all and it really shouldn't surprise us by the way. Let me just say this. It really should not surprise us that marriage is under such attack today. And it really shouldn't surprise us that marriage is such a trouble today. 'Cause lemme tell you something I bet you've never thought about. Has it ever occurred to you that Satan never bothered Adam?

Satan never even showed up until he got married. And the moment he got married, guess who shows up? He does. Soon as they get married, Adam, Satan attacks. And that's why I believe, and will always believe it. I don't believe Satan's biggest guns are aimed at the church. I don't believe Satan's biggest guns are aimed at America. I don't believe Satan's biggest guns are aimed at the school. I believe Satan's biggest guns are aimed at the home. That's his number one target. That is the bullseye. So I wanna share with all of us today, whether you're married and by the way, if you're not married, this is really helpful for you. There are a lot of things you're gonna learn. You don't need to be married to learn the truths we're gonna talk about today in so many ways.

So I wanna share with you today three principles of love and marriage we need to recapture in the 21st century. We're gonna go all the way back, and let's see what God intended for marriage to be. All right, number one, we should experience marriage as the supreme companionship. We should experience marriage as the supreme companionship. Now you go all the way back to the first chapter of the book of Genesis and God is doing his work and God is creating. And every time God creates anything, he says, this is good. Then he creates Adam and he says, this is very good. But now for the first time in chapter two, we hear four words. This is not good. Genesis 2:18, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'"

Okay, so what's not good, God? It is not good for man to be alone. This is the first negative thought ever recorded in history. Now let me just be plain. It's not that God made a mistake. It's not that there was, you know, dirt on the carpet or a spot on the window. God's creation was not imperfect. It was absolutely perfect except it was incomplete. He said, there's one thing missing. It's not good for Adam to be alone. Now when you read Genesis chapter two, you go wait a minute. He technically wasn't alone. I mean, he was surrounded by the birds of the air and the beast of the field and the fish of the sea. That's true. But there was only one human, and God never intended for humans to be alone. God made up his mind. Listen., even before he got on television, God said the Lone Ranger needs Tonto. Everybody needs relationships. Nobody needs to be on an island or on a desert out there all by yourself.

So Adam needed a companion. He needed someone he could communicate with. Someone he could share life with. So what does God do? Listen to what God says. He says, Adam, "I'm going to make a helper suitable for you". Now ladies, before you start getting upset about, I'm more than just a helper, okay, let's go back and let's look at the Word because really that's very, a very unfortunate translation. You don't need to know this, but this is what you pay me to do, all right? The Hebrew word for helper is the word ezer. And the word ezer does not mean just, you know, some kind of an assistant, you know, an administrative assistant or some kind of a slave or something like that. As a matter of fact, ladies, this ought make you feel good. That word helper is used 15 times in the Old Testament, 11 times, you ready for this, it refers to God. So that's not a negative term. It's not a derogatory term. It literally refers to God.

And by the way, the other times, the other four times it's describes military reinforcements that are needed to win a battle. What it literally means is, this is someone that's necessary to make up what might be lacking in strength or ability. So when he said I'm gonna make a helper suitable for him, this is not a menial term. That means, you know, that makes a woman just a man's assistant or some way less equal to a man. What the word is this. What the word means is this, there will be something lacking, if I don't add this. There will be something missing, if I don't add this, because look, there are certain things that is very difficult for a man to do alone. Let me give you an example. We kinda get clued in right outta the gate. Do you remember the very first command that God ever gave to anybody in the Bible? He gave it to Adam.

If you remember it, if you don't, I'll refresh your memory. The very first thing God tells Adam to do is, okay, Adam, I want you to multiply and replenish the earth. I got news for you. Even Superman can't do that by himself. No way. I want you to multiply and I want you to replenish the earth. Adam can't do that by himself. So the statement, you know, behind every good man is a good woman. That's almost universally true. I found out to be very, very, in fact, I was reading yesterday about, there was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and he and his wife was out taking a drive and they were just driving through the countryside. And so they needed some gas. They stopped at a service station. So he was pumping the gas and he noticed his wife was kind of looking at the window at the some guy in the service station. She got out, she walks in and they get into this real, you know, deep conversation.

And so she came walking out and got in the car and he said, who was that? She kind of smiled, she said, oh, that was a guy I dated long before I met you. And she said, you know, we almost got married and I haven't seen him in a long time and just wanted to get reacquainted. Man had a little smirk on his face. He said, you know, if you'd chosen him, you'd be married to a guy that runs a gas station. She said, no, if I'd married him, he would be the president of a CEO Fortune 500 company. Now the truth of the matter is behind every man is a good woman and God is getting Adam ready, not only to realize what he needed. He wanted, Adam had to do two things, realize what's missing and then want what he needed. So watch what God does. "Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground, all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name".

Now I wanna ask everybody a question, see if you're paying attention. Did God need Adam to name those animals? No. Bigger question. Did God already know what their names would be before Adam named them? Okay, so if God didn't need Adam to do it, God already knew what their names were anyway, why does God bring these animals, I mean, right in the middle of planning to give Adam a bride, why does he say, hey Adam, by the way, I got something I need you to do. Would you just name all of these animals? Do you know what he was doing? He wanted Adam to see what he was missing. He wanted Adam to have that same desire, 'cause, look, think about what happened. So Adam starts naming all these animals as they start walking by and all of a sudden Adam's a pretty smart guy. He goes, wait a minute. There's a difference between this Mr. Giraffe and this Miss Giraffe. And there's a difference between Mr. Dog and Miss Dog. And there's a difference between Mr. Horse and Miss Horse.

Now there weren't any gators there, by the way. Morning, Richard. Everyone else, everyone else has a mate. Everybody else has a mate. Somebody who's different from them, but they're also like them. So Adam's sitting there and he is going, you know, I can enjoy riding a horse. I can enjoy stroking a cat. I can enjoy petting a dog, but I need something else. I, I need companionship. And so God doesn't want anything but the best for all of us. So what does he do? He says, you know, Adam, you are exactly right. You need a companion. You need a helper that perfectly fits you. Now, before I go any further, let me just say something else to all of you who are watching who are single, those of you in this room and you're not married. I wanna make something very, very plain. God does not call everybody to be married. And there is nothing wrong with being single.

Two of the greatest men in the Bible, Jesus and Paul were single. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a single man or a single woman. And I can assure you, there are a lot of things worse than being single. I can promise you that. Two women happen to meet at the party, and one woman noticed that the other one was wearing her wedding ring on the, on her pinky finger of her right hand. And she said, excuse me, is that your wedding ring? She said, yes. She said, you're wearing it on the wrong finger on the wrong hand. She said, yeah, I married the wrong guy. I tell you right now, there's something worse than being, than being married or not being married, and that's being married to the wrong person. The point I wanna make is as you get married, when you get married, what God says is this, the moment you get married, you are to experience that as the supreme companionship. Nobody should be closer to you than your spouse. And you should never be closer to anybody else other than your spouse.

That's principle one. Here's principle two, we should envision marriage as a sacred communion. We should envision marriage as a sacred communion. Now let's keep some things in mind, at this point in the story. The only being that Adam had to communicate with and have fellowship with up 'til now was God. Now think about this. God could have created Eve at the same time He created Adam, right? He created Adam out of what? The dust of the earth. Doesn't take a lot of dust to create two. So why did he create Adam first? Why did he wait 'til he created Eve, to create Eve? He wanted Adam to know right off the bat, hey Adam, I wanna be your first love. I wanna be first in your life. We'll, we'll get, we'll get to the woman in just a moment, but I want you to understand, I created you. I want your ultimate love. I want your greatest love. I want your supreme loyalty to be to me. I want you to love me more than you love anybody else. I want to be your first love.

Well, guess what, Adam also always knew that God created Eve as well. And God was to be her first love. Because remember before there was a man or a woman, before there was a married couple, there was God. So God's already made it plain to Adam, Adam, you love me most. And you love me first. God has already made it plain before he even comes into the world, Adam, understand she's not supposed to love you the most. She's supposed to love me the most. She's not supposed to put you first. She's supposed to put me first. So now we see how God solved Adam's problem. "So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. And while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord, God made a woman from the rib he had taken outta the man, and he brought her to the man". Fascinating story.

So God becomes the first anesthesiologist in history. And he performs the first surgery in history. And with his divine hands, he creates a woman to Adam. And then this is so beautiful, the way it's put. And then he brings the bride to the groom. Now notice carefully what's happened from beginning to end. The wedding was not primarily about a man and the wedding was not primarily about a woman. The wedding was primarily about God. You say, where do you get that idea? Okay, so who planned the wedding? God did. Who provided the husband? God did. Who presented the bride? God did. So you know what that means? Ideally, God does every wedding or should. I tell couples that come to me and want me to marry them, they'll say, would you do our wedding? You know what I tell them, I don't do weddings. I perform ceremonies. I don't do weddings.

What do you mean? God does the wedding. I just perform the ceremony. I'm just a plug-in guy. You're not really promising me you're gonna do anything. You're promising God what you're going to do. That's why the key statement is in verse 22, when it says, and he brought her to the man. He becomes the only bride ever given away by God himself, which is why ladies traditionally, it is the father that gives the bride away because the father represents God, who's bringing two people together. And that's why I wanna lay down this foundational principle for everybody. And we're gonna come back to this over and over and over. The only person you could, should consider marrying. If you're not married, you teenagers, you college kids, you young adults. You're, you know, you're looking for Mr. Right, Miss Right. The only person you consider marrying is the person you truly believe God has brought to you.

Now that may sound very idealistic. I still believe that God is in the building business and I still believe God is in the bringing business. I am as convinced today as I was the day I proposed to her, God brought Teresa to me. I didn't just look up. I didn't just find her. It wasn't just a coincidence. God brought her to me. And the point I want you to grasp is this, marriage is a divine institution. It is a sacred communion. It is God's ideal idea. It came before the church, the government, the school, the state, and from the beginning, the very first marriage had on its stamp, three words, made by God. Your marriage ought to have stamped on it, three words, made by God. When that communion is signed and sealed and delivered, this is what happens. Watch this. "And they become one flesh".

Now, Moses, who I believe wrote the book of Genesis knows what he's doing. He's got it together because he uses the word here one. Now we know what that means. That refers to when you come together, physically, we all know what that means from a sexual physical standpoint, but the word has a lot more significance than just that. That word one is actually the word that is used of God, when the scripture says the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. Last night I had, I had the most fun I think I've had in years. So my, we, we were with my, my, my son, James and his wife and my, three of my grandchildren. Well, we watched when came, watched our granddaughter play softball last night. So Harper's my oldest grandson, he's 14. And he said, pop, he said, can I come spend the night with you and Nana tonight? I was, well, as long as it's okay with dad and mom, I'd love to have you.

And so his dad said, yeah, sure. And he said, can I tell you why I wanna spend the night? He said, I said, sure. He said, pop, you know, you've really got me reading my Bible. I'm reading my Bible every, every day. And he says, I got a lot of questions I want to ask you, a lot of Bible questions. I said, really? He said, yeah. No joke, I'm not making this up. So we, we, you know, went to left the ball park, listen to this. You'll love this. I said, lemme tell you something, buddy, I'll take you anywhere you want to eat. I don't care where it is, what it costs. I'll take you anywhere you want to eat. So I'm thinking, man, I'm gonna get a steak. I'm gonna get a, you know, seafood or salmon or something like that. You know what he says? He says, I wanna go to the mall to Farmer's Basket. You gotta be putting me on, but okay, we'll go there and we'll go to Farmer. So we go Teresa and I, and he, we go to Farm and then we go home and lemme tell you, for two and a half hours, we laid in our, my bed together, and he just starts asking me questions, Bible, about everything you could.

And so he gets on the Trinity, God help us. He gets on the Trinity. He said, now pop, he said, I want you to help me. So I said, okay. He said, there's only one God. I said, yep, there's only one God. He said, but now there's three gods. I said, no, there's only one God. He said, but there's God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. I said, that's right. He said, that's three. I said, no, that's one. He said, I don't understand. I said, neither do I. He said, okay, so God the Father's God the Son. I said, no, God the Father's God the Father. Okay, so God the Son's God the Spirit. No, God the Son's God the Son, God the Spirit's God the Spirit. He said, I don't understand. Are they all God? I said, yes. They're all equally God? Yes. He said, but one plus one plus one is three. I said, yeah, but one times, one times, one is one. He said, I don't understand it. I said, neither do I. The point I'm making is this. We're talking about this whole thing about one, about one. But the Bible's very plain. God, the Trinity, there are three co-equal persons. One God who reveals Himself as Father, Son and the Holy spirit.

Now let me say, why is that big deal? Here's why when he says you come together as one person, you're not just one. You're not even just two. You're three. It takes three to make a marriage. It takes a husband. It takes a wife and it takes who? Exactly. You know, the old saying, you know, what is it? Two's company, three's a crowd. Not in marriage. Two's a pair, but three are one. And it's in that coming together as one flesh that God wraps that marriage in a box. He ties it with a bow and he says, now this is very good. It's the reason why the author is like Ecclesiastes says, he says, "a threefold cord is not easily broken". You take a husband, you take a wife, you let them put God at the center of that marriage and really keep God there, you couldn't break that marriage up with a hammer. It is a sacred communion. It is a divine institution. And the bottom line is this, marriage will always be the ideal of relationship between a man and a woman who want to build a life together because it is God's perfect idea. It is a divine communion.

Now watch this. Watch how this works. Boy does God know what he's doing. God says, now look, when you understand that marriage is to be your supreme companionship. When you understand that marriage has nothing to do with the state or the government or justice of the peace, it is a divine communion. Then the last thing just naturally follows. We should enter marriage as a steadfast commitment. We should enter marriage as a steadfast commitment. Once you understand, okay, it is to be the supreme companionship. All right. Once you understand it is a sacred communion, it only stands to reason, man, I need to go into this with a steadfast commitment. So here's the logical conclusion to the story, right? So why do we read this? Why is this in the Bible? Why does God make man? Why does God make woman out of man? Why does God join the two together? Why does God bring the, bring the woman to the, why does God do that? Why does he do all of that?

Here's what he says. This is why. "This is why a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh". And you young guys and young girls over here and you people, young people listen, watch this, you see the entire process here, right in front of your eye. This is the way it's supposed to work. A young man grows up and a young woman grows up. And the first thing they ought to be taught is to love God, first. That's the, that's the primary, primary lesson you parents need to teach your kids from the time they're born. You love God, first. The first commandment of all commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That's the first commandment. So they're taught to love God first. But then the boy becomes a man and the girl becomes a woman and they begin to pray and they begin to seek the one they believe God has brought to them.

And the key is that they both love God more than anything else. And so they meet the one they believe that God has brought to them. What do they do? They leave their home. They leave their parents. They get married and they allow God to build their new home as they enjoy that sacred commit, communion that binds them together. And then they become one. All right, everybody, if you understood what I just said, raise your hand. Everybody raise your, okay, got it? So we got these detailed instructions for the first marriage. Here's what we're told. Okay, he looks at the guy and he says, okay, sir, you are to leave your father and your mother. In other words, the primary allegiance of the man is not as, is not, is no, is no longer as a son to the parents. It is as a husband to a wife. Now let me just say this very carefully. That does not mean you ignore your parents. It does not mean you disrespect your parents. It does not mean you dishonor your parents. It does not mean you quit loving your parents at, not at all, but it's a matter of allegiance.

Then God says, there's also this matter of permanence. He says a man is to leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. That word united is a powerful word in the Hebrew language. It's a word that means to be glued to, it's a word to be me, to be cemented to. It means to hold fast. Now, if you're sitting there saying, so what you're telling me, once I get married, I'm stuck with that person. That is exactly right. That's, that's exactly what he said. You are stuck with that person for better, for worse, richer for poorer, sickness and in health, you are to be glued. You're to hold fast to that husband. What that means is this, the moment I got married to Teresa, I told her I am gonna hold onto you for dear, dear life. It is the attitude of a husband that says to his wife, as soon as this wedding is over, just wanted you to know something you ever leave me, I'm going with you. 'Cause we are joined together. We are united together. We are glued together and it has to be that way. Not just practically, but biblically and spiritually and theologically.

Let me, let me tell you why. It was God that created Adam, right? But who named Eve? God didn't name Eve, who named Eve? Who named Eve? Adam did. Why didn't God name Eve? All right, watch this? "The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman,'" That's what Adam named her. "'for she was taken out of man.'" Why is it such a big deal that God said, no, Adam, you name her? I could name her, no, no, no, you're gonna name her. Watch this. When something was named, it had profound meaning in the ancient near Eastern world. When God named Abraham, if you remember, he named Abraham, and he named the nation of Israel. When he did that, you know what he did next. He entered into a covenant with them. He named them and then entered into a covenant with them. When Adam named a woman, here's what he was doing. She probably didn't even realize it. Eve, I just entered into a covenant of marriage with you because here's what we now find out in Genesis.

Contrary to what America teaches, what the world believes. Marriage is not a human contract. Marriage is a divine covenant. Marriage is not a human contract. No fine print. It is a divine covenant that can never be broken. That's why, when Jesus was asked about marriage, Jesus knew what he was doing. Somebody came to Jesus, hey, hey, can you? Wait, wait. Can you just kind of explain what you believe about marriage? You know what he does? He said, oh, I don't need to. He just quotes this text from Genesis. He says, therefore, what? Who's joined together, not the state, not the justice of the peace, and for sure not the Supreme Court. "What God has joined together, let no man separate". That's why marriage begins with vows, taking vows before God, because what makes marriage is when two people promise God, it will be 'til death do them part.

John Ortberg made a very great observation. This will help some of you today. He said this, "Sometimes people will say, I don't need a piece of paper", watch this, "It was never about the paper. In Jesus' day, they didn't have paper. it's about the promise, as long as we both shall live". So for people who say, well, I don't need a piece of paper. Oh it's worse than that. Right, you don't need one. But whether you get one or not, God says, yeah, you do 'cause I got one, 'cause you made a promise to me 'cause it's never been about the piece of paper. Never has been. Look, I'm not, you know, I, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm not the, I'm not the dullest one either. Do you think I don't know that a piece of paper can't hold a marriage together? I know that, you know that, but it's not about the paper. Goes far beyond the paper. It is about a promise that you made with God. A promise to him.

Now let me just look before I go any further, I had to add this. I was writing this message. I thought, you know, I gotta say something. There's some of you listening right now, some of you in this room, you've been divorced. And I wanna say a word to you, and I wanna say a very pastoral word. I don't want you to feel bad. I don't want you to feel like, you know, man, you know, you know, I'm, you've beaten up on me or whatever. 'Cause lemme tell you something. I grew up in a church and I grew up in a day when the church treated divorced people like they had leprosy and it was wrong and it's ungodly and it's unbiblical because divorce is not the unpardonable sin. We treated divorced people like second class citizens. We don't, but people have. Not look, I'm no fan of divorce and I don't judge anybody because they've been divorced.

I've had divorce in my own family. And I would be the first one to tell you, I get asked this question. I do not believe a woman ought to stay in an abusive relationship. I don't believe that at all. But despite all of that at the end of the day, here's what still remains true. Marriage is an institution that was always intended to be a matter of allegiance to one person for life. And that's why you enter into marriage with a steadfast commitment. So that's why I tell you again. So no surprise that marriage is under this big, big attack today. But let me just say a word. We're gonna talk about this in the fall. So we'll get, I don't wanna spoil the, what I'm gonna do this fall, but when you either do one of two things to marriage, you try to remove marriage. You just say, ah, it's not a big deal. It's just about the paper. It doesn't matter. You love me. I love you. We'll see how long this love lasts.

Let's just hook up and shack up. When you try to remove marriage or even worse, you try to redefine marriage as anything other between a man or a, or a woman, let me tell you what you just did. You just ruined marriage. If you try to remove it or you try to redefine it, you just ruined it. And you tampered with God's idea. And God always had the right of the idea. It was right then. And it's right now, marriage between a man and a woman. Now let me just say a word to those of you are watching right now. Or you may be in the room and you're not married yet. You would just let, if you would take one piece of advice, this would be my advice. Please, please let God build your first marriage. Please let God bring that wife to you.

Let, let God bring that husband to you and let God be the first love to both of you. And as those of you who are married and you're watching right now, you're listening right now. You, but this will be on in a year from now. You may be watching around the world and you're thinking about, yep, I think we're just gonna go become another one of those statistics. You know, we're just gonna give it up. We're just gonna jump ship. I just want to beg you. You make that steadfast commitment that you, you took that vow before God, you said it. I said for better or for worse, I said for sickness or health, I said for richer, for poorer, and that was not multiple choice. It was all of the above and it works. And don't take my word for it.

I got an email about two years ago from a lady that watches our "Touching Lives" television program. I had just preached a message on, on marriage. And she had just lost her husband a month before she saw the program. And she told me I could share this. You wouldn't know who she is, but let me tell you what this lady wrote. "I completed my covenant with my husband on January the 26th, 2019. The Lord granted me 40 years with my husband, who I wanted to divorce. Right after I started my divorce proceedings, I was saved by the blood of the Lamb. The Lord blessed me with a wonderful woman who discipled me and gave me the scriptures regarding marriage to read as a young believer. I was led to stop the divorce proceedings. My feelings were, if I couldn't keep a promise to God, I wouldn't be able to keep it with anyone. My marriage still had its ups and downs through the years, but I remained faithful to my covenant and my husband. The Lord is faithful to his servants. Thank you for this message, and my prayer is for that one person who listens, who is to keep their promise".

I don't wanna be too harsh. I don't wanna be too doctrinaire. I don't wanna be too hard-fisted. I don't wanna sound too arrogant. I've already admitted to you. I understand it's hard work And there are times you want to jump ship. There are times you wanna take that piece of paper and burn it and wish you had never ever signed it. But may God bless that sweet lady for her steadfast commitment. And may God bless every marriage that is now and every marriage that is to come because it was God who said from the very beginning, I didn't, he did, that loving marriage is to be 'til death do us part.

Would you pray with me right now? First of all, I wanna tell you what I said as I closed our retreat this past week up in Gatlinburg. I told these folks, I said, I'm gonna do something's that gonna shock you. You know what I did? I presented the gospel. I said, you know, I can tell some of you why you're, why you got a bad marriage because husbands, there's some husbands here today, you don't know Jesus. And there's some wives here today, you don't know Jesus. You think your wife is the problem. Your wife's not the problem. Your heart's the problem. You think your husband's the problem. Your husband's not the problem. Your heart's the problem. And there may be someone here today, you may be married. You may be single. You may be divorced. You may be remarried. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. My question is this. If you're married, are you a saved husband? Are you a saved wife? If you're single, are you a saved man? Are you a saved woman? Are you a saved teenager? Are you a saved kid? Are you saved?

That's what I want to know. Do you know Jesus? Let me tell you something. You'll never have the marriage you ought to have 'til you know Jesus. You'll never be able to be the husband or wife you ought to be until, you know, Jesus. You'll never do it. You cannot. It is impossible because it was God's idea. And when you leave God out of a marriage, I'm telling you, it will always be incomplete. And so there may be watch, someone watching today. There may be someone in this building and you'd say, thank you for sharing that. I know what the problem is. It's me. I can't fix my marriage. I need God to fix me. Then God can take care of the marriage. So if you've never trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you've never given your life to him, why don't you just do that right now? Sitting there watching on your iPad or your computer, sitting in this room, why don't you just say this right now?

Lord Jesus, I got a problem, and the problem is me. I'm a sinner. I need a savior. You're that savior, Lord Jesus. You died for my sins. God raised you from the dead, you're alive right now. And Lord Jesus today, I ask you to become my savior. I ask you to become my Lord. I repent of my sin. I turn away from my sin and I surrender my life completely and totally to you. Because Lord beginning today, I wanna be a saved husband, a saved wife, a saved son, a saved daughter, a saved father, a saved mother.

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